Who’s the villain in ‘House of the Dragon?’

Matt Smith in character as Daemon in ‘House of the Dragon’
Image via HBO

House of the Dragon is about the Targaryen family dynasty and an explosive war for the Iron Throne. It will feature new characters and new threats for them to face, but will there be a villain?

In the fantasy series, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy), daughter of King Viserys (Paddy Considine), is named heir to the throne, but when her father marries Rhaenyra’s childhood friend, Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), and dies after fathering children, events turn for the worst. Alicent believes her eldest son, Prince Aegon II, should inherit the throne. And, to add more fuel to the fire, Rhaenyra’s uncle, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), also has his eyes on the throne, but his rival, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), doesn’t want that to happen.

Through it all, there will be characters making horrible and selfish decisions that are morally wrong, but there won’t be an absolute Big Bad in House of the Dragons. The characters will be grayer, not wholly good, and not wholly evil either. It’s the themes of conquest and sibling rivalry that will act abstractly as the “villain” of the HBO series. At the House of the Dragon panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, author George R.R. Martin confirmed this when he was asked if the series would have heroes and villains.

“It depends on how you define those terms, we’re not gonna have anyone who’s called Lord Evil or Mister Atrocity or anything like that, we don’t have orcs or… anything like that, but there’s certainly evil, I believe the most interesting characters as grey characters… capable of generosity, and love, and doing good, then next week they do something selfish and bad. We all have things to be proud of and ashamed of.”

This diverges from Game of Thrones, which featured the Night King as the main villain for Westeros to defeat. The Night King was created for the show and isn’t in the books at all. Martin has a deeper involvement with House of the Dragon than he did in the original series, and showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik have shown a devotion to the source material. It’s unlikely the Night King, or any villain of that nature, will make an appearance.

Image via HBO

In lieu of a supernatural menace threatening world destruction, it will be up to the viewers to decide who to root for and who to root against. It’s very easy to draw parallels between the characters in the prequel series and those from GOT, so the same fan favorites will probably emerge. Rhaenyra is Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) ancestor, and their stories parallel one another’s. Rhaenyra was promised the throne by her father and, upon his death, is challenged by the Hightowers while Daenerys’ father, King Aerys, was slain by Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and she was forced to hide in exile. They’re both wronged women fighting to change the way the realm is run.

Alicent is closer to Cersei Lannister (Lena Headley), a vengeful woman from a powerful house who will stop at nothing for the Iron Throne. In the House of the Dragon trailer, Alicent is seen with the catspaw dagger, ready to attack when Rhaenyra stops her and exposes her for who she is. Alicent will have her own motivations for wanting her son on the throne as badly as Cersei wanted the power. The series will examine patriarchal themes and the price women have to pay to have power, so the character will be complex and Alicent’s motivations will be fleshed out.

Daemon Targaryen might be the grayest character of them all. He’s known for doing whatever he wants, he’s incredibly violent, and has an extremely arrogant personality. Daemon feels entitled to the throne and as a proud man, it will likely get ugly when he gets challenged, especially with a vicious dragon like Caraxes at his disposal. Daemon isn’t someone who cares much about what others think and often tries to rile people up and that makes him a wildcard. Smith said that his intention is to piss people off, and considering the canon, there are many reasons to believe this will hold true.

There are no heroes or villains in House of The Dragon, but that won’t stop fans from choosing sides and claiming one side is better than the other. The audience participation and debates that spin out of these political dramas are what make shows like this so great. Whether you’re for the greens, the color denoting Alicent Hightower’s claim, or the blacks, the color denoting Rhaenyra Targaryen’s, you’re likely to find both good and bad in each party.